Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bray Animation Project: 1st Anniversary!

It's been a fun and fruitful year for early animation "historianism." Back in June of 2011, the Bray Animation Project website launched after quite some time in the making. Twelve months later--largely as a direct result--great strides have been made in locating previously lost and unknown Bray cartoons, as well as accessing films that have been held in archives for years. While the website has been a handy research tool for ourselves and our colleagues, it has also proven a useful vehicle for alerting the community at large to our interests. Valuable information and important artifacts have been sent my way thanks to the site, and I'm grateful to everyone for such a warm response.

In the very near future, I expect to announce some very exciting plans that will allow the general public to finally see some of these films in high quality versions. The Bray project is not merely my personal collecting venture; it's an effort that seeks to share the films and present them in context, an effort that will take time and funds.

While we wait for these announcements, I'd like to share some highlights of films that have been located or accessed and copied in this past year. The following are samples of some two dozen or more films that have surfaced since the website's launch...and the trend continues; finds are being made and access is being achieved regularly.

The Old Swimming Hole (1919)

An entry in Wallace Carlson's Us Fellers series at Bray, using his Dreamy Dud character which began earlier at Essanay. New 16mm print of this Bray TV version acquired through the courtesy of Cinémathèque Québécoise.

Bobby Bumps Throwing the Bull (1919)

The last cartoon Earl Hurd produced at Bray. Hurd took Bobby Bumps to Paramount and later Educational, finally retiring the character in 1925 after ten years on the screen. HDCAM transfer of this abridged and amber-tinted 1920s 16mm Filmo Library print acquired through the courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Action of the Human Heart (1920)

This film is one of many animated educational films that were produced at Bray. HDCAM transfer of this 1920s 16mm print acquired through the courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Dummy (1920)

The late 1910s saw Jerry on the Job, Happy Hooligan, Judge Rummy, and Krazy Kat cartoons being produced for Bray under an agreement with Hearst's failing International Film Service. The deal also saw the production of three little-known Shenanigan Kids cartoons. "Shenanigan" was an alternate name given to the ever-popular Katzenjammer Kids comic strip in the late 1910s.  After the Bray Project launch, artist and animation historian Milton Knight alerted me to the existence of Shenanigans' The Dummy on an old VHS tape--and purely by luck, a 16mm print surfaced soon thereafter. This vintage 1950s print was obtained from a 16mm film print dealer. It was originally struck by a notorious bootlegger who sold timeslot fillers to early television stations.


On an even more exciting note, I reported to the Bray site's discussion board in April that the Bray Farmer Alfalfa series had finally been collected in full--the first Bray series to be completely reassembled, and an exciting moment. Some of you might be thinking that it would be wonderful to see these films, and you need not worry--it will happen! As a preview of what will soon be announced, please have a look at the two videos below.

Both are versions of Farmer Alfalfa's Revenge (1916). The first is a version that has circulated for decades; while having its original main title, it is an abridged version that was marketed in 100 foot 16mm form by Keystone Manufacturing Corp. in the 1940s. In another twist of luck, a brand new print has been obtained from the circa 1949 Bray TV 16mm negative that has survived in obscurity all these years. While this second print no longer has its original titles, it is complete at almost double the Keystone print's length. As I now have both, it will be no problem at all marrying the original titles with the complete film--which looks great to boot!

Here's looking forward to another fun-filled year of research, important acquisitions, as well as big announcements that will benefit all of us!

-Tom Stathes


Mesterius said...
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Mesterius said...


So far, the only silent cartoon that I've ever been able to see starring the Katzies is "Policy and Pie" (1918). This one, from two years later, looks like a great find... and I love how the designs of Hans and Fritz seem to reflect comic strip artist H. H. Knerr's drawing style in the last screenshot. Please tell me this cartoon, too, will be made available for viewing one way or another:)

(Incidentally, do you know if any of the "Katzenjammer Kids" cartoons produced by IFS in 1916-1918 survive today, aside from Policy and Pie?)

Tommy José Stathes said...

And you shall at some point! ;-)

Other Katzenjammer cartoons do exist--off the top of my head, I know I have "Down Where the Limburger Blows" and a couple others are out there as well. I have a concept in mind of doing a Katzenjammer collection including Happy Hooligan cartoons, since there was a series overlap in the comics. One day!

Unknown said...

Outstanding, Mr. Stathes!

I am SO impressed with the excellent work that you are doing.

Keep it up and I can't wait to hear more news about your upcoming plans!

Mesterius said...

The Katzenjammer collection sounds like a wonderful plan - I'd love to have an edition collecting all the surviving films from both the "Katzenjammer Kids" and the "Shenanigan Kids" series in one place. And I'm sure not saying no to some Happy Hooligan, either! :) Here's hoping that this, as well as your other video projects, will come out in the not-too-far future. (Though on the other hand, if more time means better and more complete collections, I don't mind the wait:)

Anonymous said...

Astounded by all the hard work put into the Bray Animation Project, and I've learned a lot from following its evolution.

Congratulations and happy research birthday!

Tommy José Stathes said...


Thanks so much...I love your website and will be adding a link here to it.

Mesterius: I do hope so, too, regarding that collection happening in the near future. Perhaps proceeds from the first project(s) I have planned will enable me to do it. This work ain't cheap! :-)

Anonymous said...

nice work

Unknown said...